Traveling from job to job is the norm for most people—by the time baby boomers had reached their forties, they had already worked about 11 jobs, and most millennials have worked more than six jobs by the time they turn 25—but Nancy Novogrod is not like most people. As the Editor-in-Chief of Travel + Leisure magazine, Nancy has spent the last two decades traversing valleys and peaks, both literally and figuratively, as she transformed the print publication into a multi-platform, global media brand. Earlier this summer, Nancy announced that she’d be retiring from Travel + Leisure, but before she embarks on her new adventure, Dress for Success caught up with her to find out her secret to job security and career contentment and how her travels led to a lifetime of growth both personally and professionally.
Fresh off a plane from Positano, Italy, Nancy’s soothing tone and relaxed attitude is anything but what you’d expect from someone who travels to an average of 30 countries a year while managing the production of the top magazine in the travel industry.
“I often feel like I have two or three jobs at one time,” Nancy laughs.
Contrary to today’s roving media culture, Nancy has held her position for 21 years. And it was a relatively short, but rigorous journey to the top. Right out of college, she began assisting at the New Yorker and later became a reader in the magazine’s fiction department. From there, she assumed a role as book editor for Clarkson Potter and went on to replace Anna Wintour as the Editor-in-Chief of Condé Nast’s House & Garden. In 1993, Nancy took over at Travel + Leisure, which has become the most popular travel publication, boasting 6.5 million readers worldwide.
As the official representative of the Travel + Leisure brand, Nancy flies to the far flung corners of the world to speak at events, meet with clients, research new places and ideas, as well as maintain her responsibilities to the magazine. She is “always on,” as she says, multitasking to edit articles and layouts in route everywhere from Hong Kong to Botswana.
Constantly interacting with diverse people and cultures, Nancy has adopted an open approach and sense of flexibility that has allowed her to grow with her career. As Editor-in-Chief, she is in charge of the look and feel of more than just the magazine, but the overall Travel + Leisure brand. And with a career that spans multiple decades, you are bound to go through changes, but the added fluid nature of media and travel makes for a very dynamic work environment. Nancy not only adapts, but constantly stays ahead of the curve to keep Travel + Leisure at the forefront of its competition.
“One of the inevitable effects of travel is that it broadens your perspective and increases your acceptance of difference in people and places, bringing the world closer to you—and you closer to the world,” she says.
Over the years, she has been forced to reimagine and reinvent the magazine multiple times, not only navigating advances in technology through the social media revolution, but also riding the wave of current events. Major geopolitical crises like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the rise and fall of the global economy, drastically altered the public’s worldview during Nancy’s career, but her openness to change and development has kept the brand relevant.
Bearing a responsibility to her readers, Nancy says, “The idea that my staff and I could be impacting the understanding of the world, for such a large population is thrilling, but also gives you a huge sense of responsibility. Rather than just being in charge of content that is compelling and inspiring, I need to be mindful about the realities of the world in a very interesting and responsible way.”
Despite the intensity of her job, Nancy has a calming air about her—keeping her cool amidst deadlines and perpetual jet lag. But, she insists it is the very hectic nature of her schedule that actually allows her serenity.
“I just don’t have time to obsess about certain things, for instance I’m a very fast shopper,” she jokes.
Consistently juggling the unpredictable nature of travel has given Nancy a ‘roll with the punches’ kind of attitude. She is able to devote her time and efforts strategically while abroad to avoid any missed deadlines, maintain editorial approval and an active voice in Travel + Leisure.
As an ambassador for the brand, Nancy deals with people from all walks of life on a daily basis. Her experiences have shaped her into somewhat of a diplomat over the years. “In the travel world, there is a great deal of emphasis on proper manners, genuine hospitality and appropriateness,” she says.
Simple etiquette allows Nancy to present herself in a manner that is respected universally. She takes comfort in the similarities of people across the world, advocating that travel is a “force for good,” which teaches the interpersonal skills to transcend any obstacle.
Of all the skills Nancy has acquired, it is the ability to balance her home and work life that keeps her successful and fulfilled. From a very young age, Nancy credits her mother for instilling ambition and a sense of adventure that has been instrumental throughout her career. A well-respected woman in the retail world, Nancy’s mother also traveled consistently for work.
“She had a tunnel vision that allowed her to eliminate distractions,” Nancy says. But her devotion to her career sometimes left a void in family life. Emulating her mother’s passion, Nancy is careful to maintain a work-life balance and learned early on that it’s a constant struggle to keep both as priorities.
“I have tried to be a real mother to my kids, someone who is always attentive to their problems and needs, but there are compromises along the way. Sometimes it was simply a matter of working in bed after my children went to sleep, but other times, less happily, it meant missing the occasional soccer game,” she says.
It is Nancy’s honesty about her humanness and ability to admit shortcomings that allow her to achieve success in all aspects of her life. True to form, Nancy’s step down from Travel + Leisure, is not a retirement, but simply onto the next endeavor. Keeping up her usual pace, she already has a book proposal in the works and hopes to pass on some of the lessons she’s learned through a memoir that will focus on women, power and style.
Much like a plane steadfastly steering through a storm, Nancy has been able to weather many rough patches in the publication industry and is now coasting through clear skies. From each experience throughout her time at Travel + Leisure, she has learned, she has adapted and she has grown. Nancy has spent two decades in search of the perfect destinations—and while the fountain of youth still has yet to be discovered—it seems that she has stumbled upon the foundation for building a successful and stable career: learning, adapting and growing as your company does the same.